Meet the Artist: Karla Caprali finds inspiration in her native Belem

Karla Caprali by Karon Turan

My studio visit with Karla Caprali started by a greeting from Shinubi, her miniature schnauzer. I had driven south to Cutler Bay, Florida, to see the new woodworking studio she recently set up in her backyard, surrounded by the lush greenery of the Miami suburbs. As we walked through her house, which she shares with her husband and three daughters, I was clearly in the dwelling of a creative mind and restless hands. Artworks covered the space, from hand cut Tyvek panels, to a paper mache violin, to beautifully embroidered throws and pillows, and paintings on the walls.

The thing that fascinates me most about Karla is how prolific she is. Always creating and pushing herself, she is a maker. Her work presents itself in various media, all the while carrying a sense of her whimsical story telling.

Karla was born in Belem, a port city and gateway to Brazil’s lower Amazon region, and has been based in Miami for the past 16 years. Her work has been shown extensively in the United States, including South Florida, West Palm Beach, Virginia, and New York. She is currently a resident artist at the Deering State and last year she had a residency at Kunstnarhuset Messen, in Norway.

Handmade leather bag

When did you become interested in the arts?
As a young child, I was very curious and attentive. I remember when I was about 9 years old, I used to get my mom’s fashion magazines, such as Marie Claire, and trace the pictures of the models to a paper and color it using my mom’s make up. I would then take my drawings to school and sell them. I guess that was my earliest art making and art dealing experience.

Your art work still involves fashion. Has this been a constant factor?
Most of my works have been painting and drawing until a couple of years ago when I felt inclined to use textiles. I have integrated the fine art pieces with fashion and vice versa. I create textile art that incorporates hand stitching, as well as wearable pieces out of hand cut Tyvek. To me the format of the works can vary and it depends on what I am committed to at the time of the execution, from wall panels, books or haute couture inspired fiber art. I am now interested in working with organic materials, such as leather and wood.

Tyvek cutout teepee

The themes of your work are quite powerful. What do you hope to convey through your artworks?
Through my ideas I seek to speak with the viewers quietly and reverently about feminism, politics and war, human rights, along with polemic matters of the contemporary art world. I have been working on a cross-semination of ideas that enables myself to experiment with materials and techniques I enjoy the most, like paper cutting, graphite, and needlework. I believe my main goal is to make art that is good with concepts that last.

What is the latest project you are working on?
Most recently I have been working with old and vintage pictures of people and places, the haunting atmosphere that surrounds them fascinates me. I create parallel stories that makes me relate to them, while living in modern times. I first make the drawings in graphite on paper or fabric and complement the drawing with embroidered  threads.

Lydia Litvyak Graphite and Thread
Lydia Litvyak Graphite and Thread

 How has being Brazilian influenced your artistic side?
So much of my inspiration comes from my upbringing in my native land of Brazil. Everything is reminiscent of memories of its scents, colors, and culture and explore the different stories of its past, and present, in specific meanings of patterns and designs. My feelings towards Brazil has also helped shape the main themes of my work, such as nature, beauty, political mishaps, and music. Everything resonates in my memory like a representation of these feelings.

By the time we wrap up our cafezinho and conversation, I have seen artworks from Karla that range from fully hand constructed garments, to a Tyvek cutout teepee, to leather bags and hand embroidered textile hoops. In true artist fashion, before I leave, she plays me a song in her own (of course) handmade, ukulele.

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